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Three New Species of Springtails Discovered in Spanish Cave

Nov 29, 2012 03:00 AM EST

Researchers have discovered three new species of springtails (Collembola) in the Maestrazgo caves in Teruel, Spain.

A team of researchers from the University of Navarra, Spain, and the Catalan Association of Biospeleology captured the animals by setting up traps. After examining the samples, the research team confirmed that the springtails belonged to three new species.

The species have been named Pygmarrhopalites maestrazgoensis, P. cantavetulae and Oncopodura fadriquei. Springtails are insect-like creatures that belong to one of the most ancient animal species on Earth. They are very small, primitive animals, most of which cannot be seen by the naked eye. They have six legs and do not possess wings. They have a springing organ called furca which helps them jump away from danger. That's how the species got the name - springtail.

The Maestrazgo caves, where the new species have been found, are located in the isolated region of the Iberian Range at an altitude of up to 6,560 feet (2,000 meters). The caves' surrounding regions experience extreme cold conditions with temperatures staying between minus 40 degree Fahrenheit and minus 13 degree Fahrenheit (-40 degree Celsius and -25 degree Celsius) during winter. But the temperatures inside the cave remain constant, between 41 F and 54 F (5 C to 11 C).

"Studying fauna in the caves allows us to expand on our knowledge of biodiversity," said Enrique Baquero, from the University of Navarra, who carried out a taxonomic study on the species.

"In the case of the three new collembolan species that we have found in Teruel, they are organisms that have survived totally isolated for thousands of years. Having 'relatives' on the surface means they act like relics from the past that have survived the climate change taken place on the outside of the caves," Baquero said.

The findings of the study, "The collembolan fauna of Maestrazgo caves (Teruel, Spain) with description of three new species", are described in the journal Zootaxa.

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